View synonyms for wait


[ weyt ]

verb (used without object)

  1. to remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something expected happens (often followed by for, till, or until ):

    to wait for the bus to arrive.

    Synonyms: delay, abide, linger, await

  2. (of things) to be available or in readiness:

    A letter is waiting for you.

  3. to remain neglected for a time:

    a matter that can wait.

  4. to postpone or delay something or to be postponed or delayed:

    We waited a week and then bought the house. Your vacation will have to wait until next month.

  5. to look forward to eagerly:

    I'm just waiting for the day somebody knocks him down.

verb (used with object)

  1. to continue in expectation of; await:

    I sat nervously on the bench, waiting my turn to audition.

  2. to postpone or delay in expectation:

    Don't wait supper for me.

  3. Archaic. (of things) to be in readiness for; be reserved for; await:

    Glory waits thee.

  4. Archaic. to attend upon or escort, especially as a sign of respect.


  1. an act or instance of waiting or awaiting; delay; halt:

    a wait at the border.

  2. a period or interval of waiting:

    There will be a long wait between trains.

  3. Theater.
    1. the time between two acts, scenes, or the like.
  4. British.
    1. waits, (formerly) a band of musicians employed by a city or town to play music in parades, for official functions, etc.
    2. a street musician, especially a singer.
    3. one of a band of carolers.
    4. a piece sung by carolers, especially a Christmas carol.
  5. Obsolete. a watchman.

verb phrase

    1. to perform the duties of an attendant or servant for.
    2. to supply the wants of a person, as serving a meal or serving a customer in a store.
    3. to call upon or visit (a person, especially a superior):

      to wait on Her Majesty at the palace.

    4. Falconry. (of a hawk) to soar over ground until prey appears.
    5. Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. to wait for (a person); await.
    6. Also wait upon. to await (an event).
    1. to postpone going to bed to await someone's arrival.
    2. Informal. to halt and wait for another to join one, as in running or walking:

      Wait up, I can't walk so fast.


/ weɪt /


  1. whenintr, often foll by for, until, or to to stay in one place or remain inactive in expectation (of something); hold oneself in readiness (for something)
  2. to delay temporarily or be temporarily delayed

    that work can wait

  3. whenintr, usually foll by for (of things) to be in store (for a person)

    success waits for you in your new job

  4. intr to act as a waiter or waitress


  1. the act or an instance of waiting
  2. a period of waiting
  3. rare.
    plural a band of musicians who go around the streets, esp at Christmas, singing and playing carols
  4. an interlude or interval between two acts or scenes in a play, etc
  5. lie in wait
    to prepare an ambush (for someone)

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Usage Note

Sometimes considered objectionable in standard usage, the idiom wait on meaning “to wait for, to await (a person)” is largely confined to speech or written representations of speech. It is most common in the Midland and Southern United States: Let's not wait on Rachel, she's always late. Wait on or upon (an event) does not have a regional pattern and occurs in a wide variety of contexts: We will wait on (or upon ) his answer and make our decision then. The completion of the merger waits upon news of a drop in interest rates.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of wait1

First recorded in 1150–1200; early Middle English verb waiten, from Anglo-French waitier; Old French guaitier, from Germanic; cognate with Old High German wahtēn “to watch,” derivative of wahta ”a watch” ( wake 1 )

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Word History and Origins

Origin of wait1

C12: from Old French waitier; related to Old High German wahtēn to wake 1

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. lie in wait, to wait in ambush:

    The army lay in wait in the forest.

  2. wait table. table ( def 26 ).

More idioms and phrases containing wait

  • can't wait
  • hurry up and wait
  • in waiting
  • lie in wait
  • play a waiting game

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Synonym Study

Wait, tarry imply pausing to linger and thereby putting off further activity until later. Wait usually implies staying for a limited time and for a definite purpose, that is, for something expected: to wait for a train. Tarry is a somewhat archaic word for wait, but it suggests lingering, perhaps aimlessly delaying, or pausing (briefly) in a journey: to tarry on the way home; to tarry overnight at an inn.

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Example Sentences

Nesbitt said she worried that residents who had heard about long phone waits in the early days of vaccine registration were too discouraged to try calling in recent days.

In Virginia, for example, the wait list for vaccinations in Fairfax County reached 186,602 earlier this week.

The Zinners have fundraised so they could hire an immigration attorney for Stephanie and her son, but they anticipate a long wait for any resolution.

After two failed appointments and a 45-minute wait at the hospital, her third time in the system was a success.

Maps could even help community residents compare wait times among different facilities to guide their choices and offer the best possible experiences.

So far, all the players seemed to be willing to wait their turn.

And they might not have to wait that long to show their political heft.

And as he adjusted to this change in circumstances, he screamed at himself a second time: Wait!

Some refugees wait for days on the ships before setting sail.

“Wait…” Suddenly a huge, graceful black marlin leaps out of the water, sending a shower of water ten feet high.

As men fixed in the grip of nightmare, we were powerless—unable to do anything but wait.

He didn't need to wait—as the birds did—until an angleworm stuck his head above ground.

The pig family did not know when Squinty would be taken away from them, and all they could do was to wait.

Janet might have said before leaving: "Tea had better not wait too long--Hilda has to be down at Clayhanger's at half-past six."

And Jimmy thought that if he must wait for him again he would wait in a pleasant place.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




waist packwait-a-bit